Declining health vs. increased schedules in court and sports

Technically, I'm retired, but try to help out our local paper with coverage of Courts and photographing school athletics, if old age doesn't get in the way.
The Floyd County Courthouse. (Photos by Doug Thompson)

I first covered Floyd County Court for The Floyd Press from 1962-65 while taking classes at the new county-wide high school. The normal schedule for the court was once a month (when they had enough cases ).

If left the county after high school graduation in 1965 and became a reporter and photographer for The Roanoke Times while taking classes at the University of Virginia Roanoke Center on Grandin Road in the Star City.

In early 1969, I joined The Alton Evening Telegraph on the Illinois side of the St. Louis metropolitan area for 12 years, then moved to the National Capital Region of Washington, DC, our home for 23 years before retiring to move back to Floyd County in late 2004.

In 2005, then-editor Wanda Combs asked me to take over coverage of Circuit Court for the paper, along with other assingments, including the county Board of Supervisors and photography of high school athletics for Floyd County High. So much for retirement.

In 2004, the paper, which was owned by Pete Hallman and his mother in 1965, was part of the national Media General chain of newspapers that included The Richmond Times-Dispatch and other dailies and weeklies.

Circuit Court, I found, now heard cases twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesdays. The newspaper chain sold its holdings to Hathaway, the conglomerate owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. During that period, the Circuit Court started hearing cases weekly, on Tuesday, and that conflict became one of the reasons why I had to drop coverage of Supervisor meetings because of a schedule of a schedule conflict.

Buffett claimed, whose newspaper chain grew after he bought his hometown daily in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he believed strongly in the need for daily newspapers, but he believed more in profits and turned management of the chain to Lee Newspapers, then sold the papers, but not the realest that housed the papers, to Lee.

Lee also took over control of The Roanoke Times from the chain that owned it, along with other dailies and weeklies of the state .Then they started cutting staff and reducing budgets. The Floyd Press lost its longtime sports editor — Roger Mannon — and trimmed the staff to just one employee, editor Abby White, whi became the third editor in five years after Combs retired and her replacement was fired.

The Press now occupies reduced space in the South Main Street building that once housed the the Dress Shop. The paper shares the buidling with a vape smoking store.

Somehow, my contact position for the paper continued but reductions now mean that most of the work I do is donated to try and help Abby. I still cover Circuit Court and school sports starts Friday when the varsity football Buffaloes face the Christiansburg Blue Devils in Montgomery County.

A Buffaloes touchdown in the 2022 season.

Friday will be a test of my ability to navigate the sidelines on severely weakened legs left weak from a series of vascular, muscle and bone afflictions and infections that struck in January.

Golf is also underway and I hope to photograph their play at Great Oaks Country when the varsity plays there in September, along with volleyball next week.

Declining health could make this my last season shooting school athletics. I hope not but I turn 76 in December and that ain’t young any more.

There’s also talk in the country courthouse that Circuit Court’s schedule may move to two days a week (most likely Monday and Tuesday) because of increased requests by defendants and their attorneys for jury trials. We saw two days of cases last week even after the jury case became a plea.

Changes in Virginia law took sentencing away from juries left the decision to the judges, along with increasingly lax sentencing guidelines that put guilty defendants back on the street with longer suspended sentences and little, if any, prison time.

Looks like I may need to start brining a cushion to ease a sore butt from two days on the hard courtroom benches.


Sinking a putt on multi-team match at Great Oaks Country Club in 2018.